How can the U.S. Department of Defense incorporate socio-cultural strategies to enhance the effectiveness of its missions abroad? This was the question posed to Cathy Tinsley, an associate professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, and seven other members of an ad hoc committee formed by the National Research Council’s Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education Committee on Human-Systems Integration.
The committee was tasked with exploring social framework solutions for the Department of Defense (DoD) by organizing a two-day workshop, which was held in Washington, D.C., in August. Unifying Social Frameworks: Socio-cultural Data to Accomplish Department of Defense Missions was an interdisciplinary conference that included remarks from anthropologists, neural and social psychologists, sociologists, criminologists, communication scholars, mathematical modelers, and a variety of military experts. A report of the presentations will be published in 2011.
“Interactions are increasingly global as individuals and organizations interact across social and cultural boundaries. The military is no different,” Tinsley said during the workshop’s opening remarks. “Understanding how socio-cultural factors influence behavior is of increasing importance to successful military operations.”
Workshop sessions examined the key functions of U.S. military personnel abroad and the socio-cultural knowledge necessary to effectively perform them. Guiding questions for each panel included:
· What socio-cultural factors must be understood to achieve military success in conflict environments?
· What socio-cultural knowledge will enable DoD personnel to work with cooperative partners (international and indigenous) to make local populations feel safe?
· What socio-cultural knowledge will enable DoD personnel to be more effective advisors and mentors to indigenous security forces?
· How is the persuasive appeal of conversations, messages, and activities that are intended to foster social change affected by socio-cultural factors?
· What are the strengths and weaknesses of different methods for acquiring and utilizing relevant data and knowledge?
In addition to serving on the committee, Tinsley was the moderator for the panel discussion about communications. Her areas of research include how such factors as culture, gender, reputations, stereotypes, and negotiator mobility influence how people negotiate and how they manage conflict. She also studies decision biases, particularly under conditions of risk and uncertainty, as well as how and why U.S.-based management theories do and do not translate across national cultures.